After a buoyant period of testing, development and preparation, Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. is poised for success with two high profile MXGP teams and four exceptional riders spearheading its 2019 MXGP World Championship campaign.

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP will lead the challenge with Romain Febvre and Jeremy Seewer at the helm of the advanced YZ450FM. Following a two month break at the end of 2018, Febvre has had an incredible off-season and is feeling fit, fast, and strong as he enters his fourth consecutive year inside the premier class with the Michele Rinaldi led team. With 12 Grand Prix wins to his credit and 32 podium finishes, the 26-year-old Frenchman looks to return to the same form that saw him win his first MXGP world title back in 2015.

Romain Febvre

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s newest recruit, Seewer, made a successful team debut back in October last year with a silver-medal finish at the final round of the All Japan Championship in Sugo. The talented Swiss rider looks forward to entering his second season on the 450cc bike with the support of the Factory team where he hopes to achieve the same sort of success he attained on a 250cc where he stood on the podium 26 time, five of which were Grand Prix wins.

Jeremy Seewer

Strengthening Yamaha’s 2019 crusade, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP has retained Arnaud Tonus for a third season. In addition, the team has welcomed a familiar name back to the Yamaha Family in the form of Gautier Paulin. Both Tonus and Paulin are experienced Grand Prix racers with an honorable list of achievements that includes a combined total of 63 podium finishes and 13 Grand Prix wins. Having finished inside the top-three in the MXGP Championship on three occasions, 53 of those podium achievements belong to Paulin who has topped the box 12 times.

After a solid off-season where both riders have regularly trained together on the bike and off, the dynamic duo have reaped the benefits of working together and are likely to put their YF450F motorcycles on the podium this season.

Both teams will travel to Argentina at the end of February where the first round of the nineteen round MXGP series will commence on March 2nd and 3rd.

Kiwi former motocross world champion Ben Townley has signed on to become a brand ambassador for Yamaha in New Zealand, an exciting new development inspired and enabled by long-time friend and former Grand Prix rival Josh Coppins.

Tauranga’s Townley (YZ450F), along with his son Levi (YZ65), a rising star on the junior motocross scene in New Zealand, have already collected their new Yamaha bikes and they are both thrilled to be moving into the future with Yamaha. Ben’s youngest son Jaggar will make the move across to Yamaha when he steps up to the YZ65.

“It’s very exciting and came quite out of the blue,” said the 34-year-old Townley. “This is a great opportunity for Levi, who has really started to sink his teeth into motocross racing. Yamaha has a great range of motorcycles and Josh has always been someone that I’ve looked up to and I have a lot of respect for is it will be great to work with him in his role. He’s very professional and sets a very high standard for motorcycling in New Zealand.”

Townley became MX2 (250cc) motocross world champion in 2004 and then stepped up to the MX1 class the following season, where he battled all season long with Belgian Yamaha ace Stefan Everts and fellow Kiwi Coppins. 

Everts won the MX1 world title in 2005, with Coppins runner-up and Townley finishing third overall.

Coppins said the appointment of Townley was an important part in his bid to rebuild Yamaha’s Junior Racing (YJR) programme within New Zealand.

“We already have some great representation within the Yamaha brand with Rhys Carter (Mount Maunganui’s national MX1 No.4) running coaching clinics and now with Ben Townley as brand ambassador. We are looking forward to working with someone of Ben’s calibre. To have someone with his experience fostering and mentoring our younger riders is very exciting. With Rhys looking after coaching and Ben running the junior programme, and some other exciting stuff coming up too, there’s a lot of positive things happening right now. This is the first step… we have a lot of other things happening down the track. Watch this space.”

Words by Andy McGechan

Bay of Plenty’s Ben Townley (Yamaha), with his eldest son Levi, excited about moving into the future with Yamaha.

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood is fighting a war on two fronts again this season and, so far at least, he’s winning them both.

The former Takaka man, who now lives in Royal Heights, Auckland, dominated both the MX2 (250cc) and 125cc classes at the first of four rounds in this year’s Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships in Taranaki just over a week ago and he’ll head to round two near Rotorua this weekend hoping to cement his position in both categories.

The 23-year-old builder had his work cut out in the MX2 class with on-form Mangakino rider Maximus Purvis and current Australian MX2 champion Wilson Todd piling on the pressure, while riders such as Taupo’s Brad Groombridge, Oamaru’s Joel Meikle and Taupo’s Wyatt Chase also challenged.

Harwood has a nine-point advantage over Todd and Purvis in the MX2 class – these two riders settling for equal second after this opening round – and Harwood was even more devastating in the 125cc class.

Harwood scored a hat-trick of wins in the 125cc class in Taranaki, while Tauranga’s Brodie Connolly and Ngatea’s Ben Broad fought over the No.2 position. However, the 125cc class rankings will have a reshuffle at Rotorua on Sunday, with news that Connolly has now sidelined himself following a crash just last weekend.

Meanwhile, the racing in Taranaki was also tight in the MX1 class, with Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper eventually getting the edge over Australian Kirk Gibbs – the man from Queensland the defending New Zealand MX1 champion – and Hamilton-based former Mangakino rider Kayne Lamont.

The 35-year-old Cooper is a six-time former New Zealand MX1 champion and he is determined to win the title back this season. He seems to be on target, but he enjoys only a modest three-point lead over Gibbs at the start of this Sunday’s racing near Rotorua.

Gibbs was the overall winner on the day at the Rotorua track last season, so race fans might expect the action to be fast and furious again this Sunday.

Motorcycling New Zealand motocross commissioner Ray Broad said the championships were shaping up to be a great Kiwi versus Aussie battle.

“We have Cody Cooper battling Kirk Gibbs in the MX1 class and Hamish Harwood battling Wilson Todd in the MX2 class and I think this weekend at Rotorua is going to be a pivotal event,” he said. “I hope the spectators take advantage of the great weather that’s forecast for Sunday and they turn out in numbers. The under-19 category is also included in the programme for Rotorua and this new initiative offers additional reward for the younger riders in the MX2 class.”

Round three of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships is set for Pukekohe on February 24 and, finally, the nationals wrap up at Taupo on March 10. 

Round one of the series was additionally supported by Mach 1 Yamaha, while Patterson O’Connor Motorcycles supports round two, Ebbett Pukekohe supports round three and Yamalube supports round four.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

West Auckland’s Hamish Harwood (CML Makita KTM 250), top dog in two of the three championship classes after round one of the 2019 Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships.

There are a couple of new gunslingers in town and they mean business.

Raglan motorcyclist Jason Dickey has been tearing up the countryside in recent major cross-country events and his impressive win on steep farmland at Flemington, near Norsewood, on Sunday has set him up now for a potential national title win, with Dickey’s victory at this first of four rounds in the 2019 New Zealand Cross-Country Championship perhaps a forecast of what’s to come.

Despite being a little slow to get off the start line on Sunday, the 24-year-old dairy farmer soon had his 2018-model KTM 350XC-F bike humming.

Dickey quickly moved through the traffic to put himself in a three-way battle for the lead, banging handlebars with fellow KTM rider Sam Brown, from Glen Murray, and Husqvarna rider Reece Lister, from Wairoa.

It was a gruelling battle, the three-hour race taking its toll on several key of the more than 50 riders entered, including Lister, who was forced to withdraw when the pain from an earlier ankle injury became too great.

This left the way clear for Dickey and Brown to engage in a one-on-one battle for the win, Dickey eventually prevailing and crossing the finish line nearly a minute ahead of Brown.

Taupo’s defending national cross-country champion Brad Groombridge had problems too, a long way back in the field after he’d crashed on the opening lap, although he did manage to work his way back up to finish third overall.

This result has shown that Dickey and Brown are both ready to step forward and challenge Groombridge for his title.

“I caught up to the leaders after my bad start but then I went off the track and dropped back a few places again,” Dickey said. “When the leaders pitted I snatched the lead and managed to hold it from there. I didn’t have any real problems, just a couple of lappers holding me up at times. Visibility in the dust wasn’t too much of a problem for me.”

Moving dirt is something that Brown is particularly skilled at, the 28-year-old Brown working as a digger driver during the week, and he was doing that with his KTM 450XC-F at a terrific pace on Sunday:

“I had a pretty good start and was leading the race inside the first lap. But halfway around that first lap I suffered ‘arm pump’ and just had to let Jason (Dickey) and Reece (Lister) go by me. I had a bit of a surge after that and got back into a battle with those guys again. I was in front until I pitted. I nearly ran out of gas. I didn’t think I was going to last the lap. I had a large enough tank that I only needed one fuel stop (for the three-hour race), but it was pretty risky. I caught back up to Jason but then he looked back at me and pulled away again.”

The 90-minute junior race, held earlier in the day, was won by Raglan’s Cody Rooks, followed by Napier’s Bryn Codd and Eltham’s defending junior champion Adam Loveridge.

It is now six weeks until round two of the series, set for Mosgiel on March 24.

NZ Cross Country Championships calendar 2019:
Round One: Sunday, February 10 – Central Hawke’s Bay MCC
Round Two: Sunday, March 24 – Mosgiel District MCC
Round Three: Sunday, April 14 – Marlborough MCC
Round Four: Saturday, May 25 – Taupo MCC

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Raglan’s Jason Dickey (KTM 350XC-F), outright winner of the senior race on Sunday.

Round six of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season featured the debut of the 2019 250SX East Championship, and Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team’s Justin Cooper and Mitchell Oldenburg got off to a good start at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, finishing third and sixth, respectively.

Cooper qualified second overall earlier in the day and finished third in heat 1, but got off to a tough start in Saturday night’s 250SX East main event. The 21-year-old kept his composure throughout the 20-lap event, and it paid off. A couple of riders went down, and Cooper was able to make some well-timed passes, which put the New Yorker in third at the finish for the first podium result of his young career.

His teammate Oldenburg qualified fifth and was the runner-up in heat race 2, but also got pinched off at the start of the Main. The Texan found himself shuffled all the way back to 13th position. Undaunted, Oldenburg used his racecraft along with some fortuitous rider attrition to work himself all the way up to sixth place at the checkers.

The Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team’s 250SX East riders will be back in action next weekend for round two, which will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday, February 16.

Wil Hahn – Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing Team Manager
“Tonight was a solid start for us. We need to be better off the start and the opening laps, but leaving third and sixth… we can build on this and look forward to Dallas!”

Justin Cooper – Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing
“The bike was awesome all day and the team made adjustments to fix anything I was uncomfortable with. I was able to predict exactly what the bike was going to do throughout the race, even with the track conditions getting worse. I had a terrible start, but felt great on the bike the whole main and just had to maintain the race as best I could with all the chaos around me. Everything about the day went smooth except a little first race jitters in the heat race. First podium at my second Supercross race ever… what more is there to say? It’s a great feeling!”

Mitchell Oldenburg – Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing
“Today was decent. Practice went well for me, I felt really comfortable and the bike was working awesome. Tonight though, just wasn’t the best night for me. I didn’t feel that great. Not racing for a year was tough, and it showed tonight. I’m looking forward to building off of this and getting ready for the next few races and Dallas next weekend.”